A road trip, I’ve learned after test-driving new cars for a few years (decades, actually), goes better when you have an objective in mind.
“Pie, anyone?” I asked of a group of colleagues, preparing for a day of driving 2015 Volkswagen of America offerings. Of late, I have been looking for roadside attractions that offer tasty homemade treats – tragically, a vanishing commodity in fastfood-obsessed America. I scored big earlier this year with a stop near Petaluma, California, where homemade jams, jellies and pies were on the menu; hence, the inauguration of the “pie run” (much more leisurely than, say, a Cannonball Run).
“If it’s pie you want,” one helpful fellow offered, “I know a place.”
“Terrific!” I said.
“Trouble is, I can’t really tell you how to get there from here,” he said. “Plus, I can’t recall the name of the place.”
Okay, that would make it a little more challenging. But I was still all in. After some discussion, we decided it was about 30 minutes off the beaten path, down several lonesome roads, across a couple of creeks, through a village or two, near a crossroads. We didn’t know the names of all the roads, but at some point, if I drove through a town called Purcellville, I would be generally headed in the right direction.
On a postcard-perfect day, I set off in a 2015 VW Beetle Convertible.
I could look up all the specs, if you want. But suffice it to say, it had the one feature that I cared about: No roof.
I love to drive convertibles, and I love to drive them with the top down. Otherwise, I mean, what’s the freakin’ point!?! (I must confess, even after my substantial test drive, I don’t know how to raise or lower the Bug’s top – because I didn’t care. So sue me.)
How fast does it go? How many horsepower does it have? What’s the zero to 60 time?
No clue, friends. But if you are worried about those things, you are – again – missing the point of driving a convertible. I would have driven it in slow motion, if I could have, slowly waving to the envious passers-by, palm inverted, like British royalty.
The whole idea was to enjoy the ride.
I wasn’t completely oblivious, as I have been wanting to drive the latest Beetle Convertible for awhile now. I drove the previous generation model a few years back, and enjoyed it – especially its high-style interior and nonpareil color combinations. I vaguely remember that it had a smooth six-speed transmission, and a reasonably peppy gasoline engine. (Diesels are now available too.)
The 2015 model seemed better in all regards. And one additional thing I noticed: Not all convertibles are created with the same doses of fun engineered in. A few I’ve driven have made life miserable for the occupants, with excessive wind buffeting and swirling, poorly placed windshields and seats, and a generally excruciating ergonomic experience.
The Beetle convertible was guilty of none of that. The driving position was nigh-well perfect, you never wanted to put the top up, and you didn’t need the side windows up – or a wind baffle. The cabin was an oasis of calm. It was just decadent, delicious, topless fun.
To those who say the Beetle convertible is a chick car, I say rubbish. It’s perfect for all genders, races, religions, or creeds (as far as I can tell) – and especially perfect for a backroad pie run on a sun-drenched afternoon.
To make a long story somewhat shorter, the pie restaurant was indeed located! It’s called Stoneybrook Farm (and you could look it up on TripAdvisor if you want more mouth-watering information). And it was a stupendous find.
It’s an organic restaurant and market, with a real farm right out its back door. How fresh and natural was everything? When I asked if the cheese was local, the clerk said, “Do you want to meet the cow? She’s right out back.”
So were the apple trees that supplied the key ingredient in the Dutch Apple Pie!
Here it was, not quite noon, and the only fresh pie left in the safe was Dutch Apple. I greedily took it, only slightly elbowing a few pensioners out of the way.
The clerk assured me that a new batch of pies was in the oven – pecan, berry, apple and more Dutch Apple – but they wouldn’t be ready for 30 minutes.
I wouldn’t be denied; I grabbed the last pie, and made my getaway. The drive back to the starting point seemed to take much too long, despite the wonders of the afternoon in the convertible. Upon arriving, I proudly shared my find with my colleagues.
Sadly, I only ended up getting about a quarter of my pie. The rest was scarfed down by those with whom I shared it.
Was I too generous? I think not.
My rationale was this: The sooner the pie was gone, the sooner I could take off on another test drive – to get more pie to take home.
And that’s just what I did. Great excuse to put more miles on the Beetle convertible.
Just for the record: The TSA doesn’t not consider a fresh berry pie “liquid.”
(Editor’s Note: 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, MSRP $25,170-$28,895, EPA 24-28 city, 32-41 highway depending upon optional engines, transmissions. For complete info, go here)
September 5, 2014